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Rally takes stand on Ashland

By Karen Rivedal and Teresa Puente, Tribune staff reporters.

Tribune wire services contributed to this report.

May 2, 2001

Hundreds of demonstrators carried signs, blew whistles and chanted slogans Tuesday in Chicago to support the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., while opposing Navy bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), bruised from being detained in Puerto Rico, where he was arrested for trespassing on naval property over the weekend, joined the demonstration after vowing to push for a congressional investigation into how he and others were treated while in custody.

"We believe there are 11 million people who work hard every day," said Gutierrez, who is sponsoring amnesty legislation for undocumented immigrants. "It's time to respect their work with legalization."

Demonstrators filled Union Park at Ashland Avenue and Lake Street, where passing motorists signaled their support by blowing their horns.

People of many nationalities--including Koreans, Poles, Bosnians and Mexican nationals--stood on sidewalks along Ashland Avenue as far north as Devon Avenue and as far south as 60th Street.

Amnesty for immigrants and Vieques "are the two major issues in the Latino community," said Tim Bell, a local activist who helped coordinate the May Day demonstration in Chicago.

"The amnesty issue is not just a Latino issue," said Dale Asis, director of the Coalition of Asian, African and Latino Immigrants, who joined the protest on the West Side.

An estimated 6 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But new census data may put that number as high as 11 million.

Opponents of the amnesty proposal said it rewards immigrants who break the law and encourages more immigrants to come to the U.S.

As of Tuesday evening, 178 people had been arrested for trespassing in protest of the exercises on Vieques. While critics say the bombing operations have created health problems and other dangers, Navy officials said Vieques is the only place the Atlantic fleet can conduct air, land and sea training with live munitions.

"The people of Puerto Rico deserve for their own land to be their own," said Jade Dell, 55, of Chicago. "If they were bombing somewhere in New Jersey, we'd be pretty upset."